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J.D. Power 2014 Initial Quality Study Finds Increase in Reported Problems for New Vehicles

J.D. Power 2014 Initial Quality Study Finds Increase in Reported Problems for New Vehicles

By Jeff Youngs, June 18, 2014

After years of making steady improvements in the quality of their vehicles, automakers are experiencing a decline this year, as evidenced by findings of the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS), which measures problems experienced by new-vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Compared with last year, the 2014 IQS shows an increase in reported problems, following similar findings earlier this year in the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS), which measures problems experienced after 3 years of ownership.

Problems Increase Due to Technology, Weather
In 2013, J.D. Power redesigned the annual IQS, now in its 28th year, in order to better reflect owner-reported problems with new vehicle systems and technologies. Based on the results of the 2014 IQS, the increase in problems is primarily associated with audio systems, voice-recognition systems, and Bluetooth pairing.

"Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly, with some consumers indicating that the technology is hard to understand, difficult to use, or simply does not always work as designed."

In J.D. Power's IQS, quality is measured and expressed as problems per 100 vehicles, or PP100, with lower scores reflecting higher quality. The 2014 IQS shows a 3% increase in reported problems compared to 2013, with the overall industry average score rising to 116 PP100 from 113 PP100.

New or significantly revised models (128 PP100) continue to be more problematic for owners than do carryover or slightly revised models (113 PP100). However, the overall industry increase in problems is primarily due to issues related to audio and communication technologies and to systems and components that are affected by severe weather conditions, such as the climate system, engine/transmission, and a vehicle's exterior.

"Automakers test vehicles in extreme conditions to ensure they function properly," said Sargent. "However, it is impossible to completely negate the effects of severe weather. Heating and ventilation systems have more work to do, engines and transmissions aren't as smooth when cold, and exterior moldings and paint all take some punishment. Consumers generally understand this but still report problems when their vehicle does not wholly live up to their expectations."

According to the 2014 IQS, vehicle owners in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States--areas that regularly encounter harsh weather conditions and whose residents endured a particularly harsh winter this past year--have experienced a year-over-year increase in problems in the vehicle exterior, air conditioning/heat/ventilation, and engine/transmission categories. In the South and West regions, the overall PP100 score across all vehicles remains the same as in 2013.

How Initial Quality Impacts Brand Loyalty
According to J.D. Power research, the fewer problems a vehicle owner experiences during the first 90 days of ownership, the more loyal they are to that brand when the time comes to buy a new car, truck, or SUV.

Based on previous years' IQS results, and according to Power Information Network(R) (PIN) from J.D. Power data, 57% of new-vehicle owners who experience no problems in the first 90 days buy the same brand when purchasing a new vehicle. If only one problem is experienced, that loyalty rate declines to 53%. Only 48% of those who experience two or more problems say they intend to buy the same make of vehicle the next time.

"Problems experienced in the first 90 days correlate strongly with ultimate repurchase behavior," said Sargent. "These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle."

2014 Initial Quality Study Rankings
According to the results of the 2014 IQS, Porsche ranks highest among all nameplates in the study, at 74 PP100. Jaguar (87 PP100), Lexus (92 PP100), Hyundai (94 PP100), and Toyota (105 PP100) round out the top five nameplates for initial quality.

Among companies, General Motors receives six model-level awards, more than any other automaker. Hyundai Motor Company receives five initial quality awards. Ford Motor Company, Nissan Motor Company, and Volkswagen AG each receive three awards.

For complete nameplate rankings, as well as a list of the individual models that receive awards in their respective segments, visit

Additional Research:

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